Here are my 5-star favorite mysteries of 2014.
The Long Way Home by Louise Penny – Armand Gamache, former chief inspector of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec, is settling into retirement in the idyllic village of Three Pines—but Gamache understands better than most that danger never strays far from home. With the help of friends and chocolate croissants and the protection of the village’s massive pines, Gamache is healing. You might just mistake him and his wife, Reine-Marie, for an ordinary middle-age couple oblivious to the world’s horrors. But Gamache still grapples with a “sin-sick soul”—he can’t forget what lurks just beyond his shelter of trees. It’s his good friend Clara Morrow who breaks his fragile state of peace when she asks for help: Peter, Clara’s husband, is missing. After a year of separation, Peter was scheduled to return home; Clara needs to know why he didn’t.
Darkness., Darkness by John Harvey – Diamond Dagger Award–winner Harvey’s 12th and last Charlie Resnick novel. The destruction of an old apartment terrace in the Nottinghamshire village of Bledwell Vale, in England’s coal-mining country, reveals a human skeleton. Dental records identify the remains as those of Jenny Hardwick, missing since 1984. An outspoken advocate for the miners, Jenny was the wife of a scab, one of the men who crossed the picket lines to keep providing for their families. Det. Insp. Catherine Njoroge takes charge of the investigation, and recruits Resnick who has been working as civilian investigator on cold cases, since he has first-hand experience of the divisive, violent miner’s strike of the mid-1980s.
Cop Town by Karin Slaughter – Gender politics and race relations are front and center in this thriller. It’s 1974 Atlanta, and another policeman has been shot by the man they’re calling the Shooter, yet his partner, Jimmy Lawson, is left physically unharmed but devastated. Jimmy’s sister Maggie, also a cop, is convinced that something is off about Jimmy’s version of events, but getting anyone to listen to her suspicions would only prove futile. After all, women weren’t very welcome on the police force in 1974 and they certainly didn’t investigate serious crimes. When she’s partnered with Kate Murphy, whose pampered background couldn’t be more different from Maggie’s solid blue-collar roots, events begin to escalate, and Kate and Maggie must put everything on the line to stop a ferocious killer.
Proof Positive by Archer Mayor – When Beverly Hillstrom, Vermont’s chief medical examiner and girlfriend of Vermont Bureau of Investigation detective Joe Gunther, asks him to look into the death of her cousin, Ben, how can he refuse? Ben, a Vietnam War Signal Corps photographer and a hoarder, was found crushed to death under a pile from his collection. The cause of death was inconclusive, according to Beverly’s autopsy. When Ben’s estranged ex-wife is found tortured and murdered soon after, Joe’s senses are on high alert.
Invisible City by Julia Dahl – Rebekah Roberts moved to New York City in the hope of covering important stories as a journalist, but she also wanted to be closer to the mother who abandoned her shortly after she was born to return to her Hasidic Jewish community. When Rebekah is tasked with reporting on the murder of a Hasidic woman, she begins to learn more about the community and how in some respects it exists as a sovereign state within the city. And the NYPD is happy to oblige the community’s customs, including not performing an autopsy on the victim, which might result in the murder remaining unsolved.
Providence Rag by Bruce DeSilva – Inspired by a true story, Providence Rag finds Liam Mulligan, his pal Mason, and the newspaper they both work for at an ethical crossroad. The youngest serial killer in history butchered five of his neighbors before he was old enough to drive. When he was caught eighteen years ago, Rhode Island’s antiquated criminal statutes—never intended for someone like him—required that all juveniles, no matter their crimes, be released at age twenty-one. The killer is still behind bars, serving time for crimes supposedly committed on the inside. That these charges were fabricated is an open secret; but nearly everyone is fine with it—if the monster ever gets out more people will surely die. But Mason is not fine with it. If officials can get away with framing this killer they could do it to anybody
Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman – In this ninth and final Moe Prager outing, Prager is still grieving the death of his fiancée, who was killed in a car accident for which he feels responsible. He’s awakened by his brother from a drunken sleep; Nancy Lustig, a woman he met 35 years earlier, wants to hire Moe to find her missing 30-year-old daughter, Sloane, who enjoyed brief notoriety a decade earlier as Internet sensation “Hollow Girl,” airing “real life performance art.” Although their relationship has always been tortured, mother and daughter spoke biweekly. Sloane has not called in a month, and when new, more graphically sadistic videos starring a seemingly comatose Sloane start appearing online, Moe gets that uneasy feeling in his “kishka” that something is amiss.
I’ve read a lot of good books this past year. I hope one of them appeals to you.